Reptile Molting

The process of shedding skin in reptiles is known as moulting, sloughing or molting. It is an integral part of their life cycle and a requirement for their growth.


Reptiles during this time lose their appetite. Their eyes are often milky and their vision is impaired. They may hide and rub their head against cage furniture to loosen the old skin.


Reptiles, including snakes, lizards and turtles, shed their skin at regular intervals. This is a natural process that helps keep the animals healthy. It also allows the animal to grow without getting too big for its skin, as new scales are formed underneath the old ones. This is why it is important for a reptile owner to be familiar with the process and to be aware of when his pet is pre-shed. Pre-shed snakes lose their appetite and often become irritable and difficult to handle.

As a reptile prepares for a shed, its coloration will dull and the eyes may take on a milky appearance. The reptile will rub its head on a rough surface, such as a rock or bark, in order to tear open the outer layer of skin. Once the snake has a hole in its skin, it will rub itself from the front of the body to the back in order to slide out of its old skin. This may take a few days.

Bathing your reptile at this time can help loosen the excess skin and make it easier to remove. A mild or warm water bath is helpful. A spray bottle with tepid or warm water can also be used to coat the skin, especially in hard to reach areas. Baby oil can also be useful in assisting the shedding process for some reptiles but it should always be used with caution and under the advice of your exotic veterinarian.


As with other reptiles, snakes and lizards must periodically shed their old skin. This process is also known as sloughing, moulting, or ecdysis. This process occurs differently in different types of reptiles. Reptiles like turtles and crocodiles generally shed their skin all at once, while lizards usually shed their skin in bits. During this time, your pet might not be as active and may even seem cranky or snappy. This is because shedding can be very uncomfortable.

Bathing your reptile can help to speed up the molting process. Make sure you use a dedicated tub or plastic bowl that is only used for this purpose and not your sink or bathtub. This helps to prevent the spread of salmonella and other bacteria that can be found in the water. Bathing your pet also helps to hydrate their skin and loosen the remaining pieces of old skin that are sticking in place.

Soak your pet for about ten minutes or until the water gets warm, but not hot. After the bath, dry your reptile and place them back under their heat lamp. Using this method of bathing every other day can greatly speed up the shedding process. Also, it can help to eliminate any odors that may develop from the old skin. This is important since the shedding process can cause a foul smell in some reptiles.

Removing Excess Skin

When reptiles molt, they replace the outer layer of their integument with a new layer. This process is regulated by hormones and is called ecdysis. Reptiles like lizards, snakes and turtles shed this skin regularly. On average, they will molt four to six times in their lifetime. This is a normal part of their growth and can be a good indicator of their health.

During the shedding process, it is important to remove any old or ragged pieces of skin. This helps ensure that the herp is fully molting and that they do not have any remaining bits of skin that could harbor bacteria or parasites. Some lizard owners like to assist their herps by gently pulling off the ragged skin when it is ready to be removed. This is not recommended, however, as it may damage the herp. Instead, you can help the lizard rub off its skin by placing it on a rough surface such as a rock or log.

This will allow it to start tearing off the old layer of skin. During this time, the iguana will also need to bathe frequently to further loosen the old skin. This will be particularly noticeable if the herp is in a humid retreat box. Observe the herp closely to make sure that it is shedding properly. Incomplete shedding (or dysecdysis) can be an indicator of health problems such as infections, internal abscesses, internal parasites and nutrient deficiencies.


Moulting is an important part of a reptile’s growth. It can also be a good indicator of their overall health. If they’re shedding too much it could indicate that they’re overfed, but if they’re not shedding enough they may be malnourished.

Reptiles, unlike humans, don’t grow larger as they get older. Their skin instead gets tighter and they reach a point where they need to shed the old layer of skin. As they shed the old skin, parasites that have attached themselves are also removed.

Once a reptile starts molting its eyes will become whitish and the skin will be dull. It will then rub itself on something abrasive to tear off the old layer of skin and start the shedding process. During this phase it’s important not to handle the animal as the new skin is very delicate.

Once the old layer is gone the new skin will appear shiny and clear. The reptile will then begin to eat and drink water as normal. The process takes a few days to a couple weeks depending on the size of the reptile and body condition. After the reptile has finished shedding its new skin, it will be ready to go back into its enclosure.